Tuesday, September 01, 2020

The Starbucks Story

It's been a busy two weeks since I last posted, including two days last week at a Mental Health First Aid training course in Halifax. I stayed at the hotel where the course was being held and lucky for me, there was a Starbucks nearby so I could pick up a coffee on my way back from my morning walk on day two. 

Inside the store, I was doing everything wrong – like not realizing we no longer pour our own cream – so I finally ended up explaining that this was my first trip away from home, away from my own home where everything is organized according to my needs, not according to pandemic protocols. 
I have no idea if the young woman serving me really heard my story through my mask and the plexi-glass barrier but regardless, it was a very good cup of coffee that I quite enjoyed. 

Later, I went back to that Starbucks during our mid-morning break. Different clothes, different mask; I didn’t expect to be remembered or recognized as the hillbilly who couldn’t even find the door to go in three hours earlier. 

This time, I had to wait for my order and as I stood on my designated spot on the floor, I looked around. 
“This section temporarily closed” said the sign in the middle of a long, wooden table with eight chairs around it. 
“This section temporarily closed” said the sign on a bank of seats along the window. 
It was disheartening to witness in person how we can’t gather anymore at any of our favourite places. Most of our former activities – much of our former lives – are truly off-limits now.

Then I heard, “Here’s your coffee, Sara.”

How did she know my name? Wow, these guys are good. I grabbed my coffee-to-go and MY NAME WAS SPELLED CORRECTLY on the sticky receipt. How did they know? 

Because I was wearing a name tag for the course. 
I laughed, the person behind the counter laughed, and I said we should all wear name tags.  
I headed out feeling special and light-hearted.


As I crossed the parking lot and hit the grassy verge at the street, a wave of emotion swelled up in me. 
For everything we have lost. 
For the way everything has changed. 
For what has been lost and may never be regained.

In that moment of upswelling emotion, I could have cried. For the way our world used to be. When we could be around others and chat and laugh without fear. When we could connect with others without face coverings and hand sanitizer. When we could hug and touch, comfort and acknowledge. When we could pass on the sidewalk without averting our heads, or stepping out  onto the street. 
When it didn’t feel like we were avoiding each other. 

Yet consider what happened: On that morning, in the early days of our “new normal”, during this new way forward into a different future, I was called by name. 
I felt recognized and known. 
In the midst of the shitstorm that is the world right now, when the news is distressing and overwhelming yet we need to sit with our discomfort because this IS our world right now, someone spoke my name.  

It happened only because I was wearing a name tag so it’s not the literal fact that matters but rather what it represents: The power of speaking a name, the impact of hearing your own name spoken unexpectedly in the midst of all of this chaos and uncertainty.
There is so much we don’t know about the weeks and months to come but – 

I know you.
You know me.
We still connect. Even if it’s fleeting.

Remarkably, life is going on. 
We are the same yet different.
We are finding the way forward; even if the path seems more treacherous, it is still familiar. 
We are figuring out ways to do what we need to do. We are willing to give up our wants. 
We are more resilient and creative, more adaptable and innovative, more compassionate and thoughtful than we give ourselves, and others, credit for.
Which is why we need to work together – with, not against each other. 

It’s why we need to wear a name tag when we go out into the world. 
Because hearing your name spoken from behind a mask, from behind a barrier is the sweetest encouragement we can get in this brave new world we’re living in. 

~ by Sara Jewell
cross-posted on Facebook at @JewellofaWriter

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